Now but Not Yet
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” 22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
It would seem that the message of the previous verses have led up to this conversation; “when will the Kingdom of God come?” The Pharisees ask this question with their blinders firmly in place. By now they have heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus and have seen a Samaritan return to worship Jesus after he has been healed. Now they have the hubris to ask Jesus when God’s Kingdom would arrive, asking this question to God Himself (although they would have denied that vehemently.) Jesus’ answer is mysterious and illustrative all at the same time.
This entire passage points to that place of tension that is ubiquitous throughout life with Jesus; the Kingdom of God is now but not yet. The Pharisees are standing there looking into the face of the Savior and yet He is telling them the Kingdom of God will come when they least expect it; now but not yet. The Pharisees are looking for definitive signs that the Kingdom is coming. They (and let’s be honest – we) wanted to know when things are going to happen so that we can be prepared and that is the exact attitude that Jesus addresses – you need to be constantly prepared because God is not going to share that information. It’s none of your business! Part of this discussion goes toward the need we seem to have for “signs” from God that He's actually going to keep His promises. We want some advance notice about how things are going to turn out so that we can be ready. This desire is born out of a need for control and that displays a distinct lack of trust in God. Of course the Father isn’t going to massage that need. The truth remains, the Kingdom of God is already here! Jesus Christ, Son of God, Author of creation, was the one saying these words to the group of people asking for a sign. What more do you need?
Jesus then addresses the not yet idea of His discourse. He is referring to the fact that He will be returning and we are waiting for that to happen; we too have to be continuously prepared. Jesus explains the different reactions to His Kingdom now and in the future. There will be those who are a part of the Kingdom by faith and those who reject. This was true when He spoke the words and it is true today. There are only two possible reactions to Jesus; believe or denial. Hearing these words of Jesus’ mouth must have been shocking indeed for His listeners.
One of the most difficult things we all have to face our inability to truly know what’s coming. But Jesus makes one certain promise. He will return and His Kingdom will be complete. Every promise made by God has been fulfilled so we can hold onto the certainty that He will keep this one as well. Just because I can’t see what’s coming or tell you exactly when it will happen doesn’t make it untrue. Faith kicks in and we simply hold onto His Kingdom that is already here with us now.